Caribou – Swim Album Review

It doesn’t surprise me that Caribou (stage name of one Daniel Victor Snaith) has a PhD in Math. Talk to a math nerd for more than an hour about anything, and you’ll find that, more often than not, they relish in the joy of deconstructing and dismantling any little thing, just for the hell of it. They will tell you that there is a sublime beauty in the simple patterns of nature, the way the most basic elements can come together to form things seemingly random and unique. Much like how an abstract artist can redefine what our sense of “red” may be, or how a linguist can spend hours exploring the logistics and colloquialisms that went into the evolution of a slang term like “radical,” the fearless mathematician only seeks the rudimentary where once only existed the profound.


Caribou’s newest album, Swim, is more science experiment than album. Mr. Snaith presents the obvious thesis: “This is what dance music sounds like.” He then proceeds to crack open the shell and pull out all the wires and circuit boards and put them back together with only his intuition guiding him. He simultaneously rearranges and satisfies all expectations. It’s like Molecular Gastronomy, the album.

Philosophically, Swim and Andorra are the same. Both are undoubtedly Caribou albums; you’ll be taken aback by the effortless excellence of his production, the meticulous placement of each and every tone in his compositions. But, where Andorra owed much to the messy, noisy psych-rock tropes of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Swim takes a hard right and veers right into krautrock territory. But this transition is no non-sequitur. Caribou expertly disassembles the minimal disco of the IDM movement and pairs its most basic elements with unexpected blasts of organic tone. It’s a compare and contrast by juxtaposition. While Andorra was a presentation of fullness in all its excessive glory, Swim is a process of reduction, simmering the elements and boiling away the fat.

Opening track, “Odessa,” pulses with dark, dripping romance, an Italo Disco banger that sounds like a first cousin of an Arthur Russell jam. “Sun” literally shines, beaming through the darkness like a lead single from Boredom’s Vision Creation Newsum that never was. “Hannibal” covers so much ground that it would easily succumb to schizophrenia under a less restrained hand. Every song is obviously similar, but contains so many unique experiments and ideas that the album never sounds “samey.”

The overall beauty of Caribou’s Swim, or even Andorra, is the obvious joy that he finds in creating this music — the care and attention to detail that every track is given. It’s dense but attractive, complex yet compelling, nothing revolutionary but something very special, all the same. And the best thing is, I have no idea what he’ll do next.


Written by
Allen Huang

Allen is a writer/organizer/manager based in Taipei, Taiwan. You can read his work on Redefine and Asian Junkie. You can follow him on twitter at @therealhojo.

View all articles
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Wes Andrews
Wes Andrews
14 years ago

Sounds like an A album to me, especially if it made you think that much. Great review, Allen.

Your Pretend Boyfriend
Your Pretend Boyfriend
14 years ago

Check out our remix of Caribou’s brilliant track “Sun” from their album “Swim”.

Listen and download the track here –

Your Pretend Boyfriend x

Written by Allen Huang
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x